Chicago Film Festival: New movie follows Bronzeville 'kings' of illegal Illinois lottery racket

'I would have to call them the Robin Hoods of Chicago because they took care of their people,' said music icon Quincy Jones.

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
New movie follows Chicago 'kings' of illegal Illinois lottery racket
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A new movie is premiering for the 2022 Chicago Film Festival. It follows Edward Jones, who was involved in an illegal Illinois lottery racket.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The state lottery is big business, but long before it got started, there was a thriving numbers game of chance in Chicago.

A new movie reveals a fascinating chapter in the city's Black history. "King Of Kings: Chasing Edward Jones" premieres at the Chicago History Museum on Wednesday at 6 p.m. as part of the Chicago Film Festival. There's a free showing for the community at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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Edward Jones and his brothers ran the illegal racket called "Policy" in Bronzeville, and it made millions. Harriet Marin Jones is his granddaughter, and spent a decade and her own money making the film.

"This illegal numbers game was controlled at the time by African Americans, and then eventually they were gonna let the mob take in, it changed everything and then eventually the government took it over, changed the name, legalized it and it became the state lottery," Jones said. "I had no idea that my grandfather had been one of the richest men in the United States. You can be sure that my mother never said a single thing."

The story is set in the 1930s and 1940s.

"Well, for me, it really shows that in the midst of segregation, and in a time when it was very difficult for the African American community, that you could still, really make it," Jones said. "A lot of the money they made, they invested it back into the community. And when you think that in the 30s and 40s, the south side, Bronzeville was a strident community."

Music icon Quincy Jones knew the Jones family while growing up on the South Side, and is working on his own film about the Policy Kings.

"I would have to call them the Robin Hoods of Chicago because they took care of their people," Quincy said. "The idea to have the world premiere in Chicago makes so much sense... I really wanted to do this one, for it to be entertaining and draw people to stay from beginning until the end if it's in a way that takes them in."